Courtesy Reuters

British Vacillations


DURING the last fifteen months the British Government would seem to have outdone itself in hesitation, vacillation and alterations of policy. In France we are in the habit of paying homage to the empirical genius of our English friends. But we take empiricism to mean action which is inspired by an attentive observation of facts. An empiricist is not satisfied with ready-made ideas; he must be modest and prudent, yet intelligent; he is not necessarily pusillanimous. The empirical process is logical, rigorous, disciplined. It does not lead to the practice of diplomacy in accordance with fixed conceptions, as is sometimes the French manner, nor does it nourish bold projects and grandiose ambitions of the sort which characterize modern Germany. But it is not confusion and weakness. For the moment we refuse British policy the bright appellation of "empirical." At the same time we express the hope that it may speedily transform itself and again deserve the name; for we are convinced that this is the price of European peace. What follows is a justification of this judgment.


After the close of the World War the British people quickly showed what was to be its tendency with regard to the peace which had just been won. The definitions used by its ruling class were not always very clear; but the instinctive wish evidently was that all peoples, victors and vanquished alike, should forthwith devote themselves to acquiring the greatest possible degree of material well-being. The free exchange of goods, of services, of capital; unrestricted travel and intellectual intercourse; disarmament as far as possible; the elimination of every distinction between loser and victor as a result of a gradual and mutually acceptable revision of the treaties of peace, resulting, in turn, in the substitution of "spiritual frontiers" for the old physical frontiers -- such was the ideal. It furnished the justification for the League of Nations which had just been founded at the entreaty of President Wilson. A majority of the countries

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